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Little support for year-round schooling

B.C.’s temperamental weather dominated the concerns parents and students had about changing Langley School District to year-round schooling.

“They are only kids once, let them be kids,” said one parent who spoke against the district’s suggestion to move to year-long schooling.

Hundreds of parents, many with children in tow, showed up to the district’s school calendar open house, held at the school board office on Tuesday.

“Don’t take away my camping,” said another parent. Others worried their kids would miss out on municipally-run summer camps that are staffed by university students on their summer break.

If school holidays were to fall in winter and in “rainy” spring, many parents worry that would put kids in front of a computer or TV screen for the entire vacation, instead of enjoying outdoor activities.

“In the summer we do a lot of free stuff, like go to the park,” said Kirsten Schaffer-Charlesworth, who is against year-round schooling.

“So now we have to plan inside options, which means taking them to [indoor play centres] which costs money.”

Not everyone can afford to fly somewhere warm, said many parents.

One parent suggested that if the district is looking at re-arranging the school calendar, why not factor in making the first two weeks of September part of the holidays? “That’s when we have the nicest weather.”

The three possibilities the district is looking at are: to keep the current calendar as it is, with the already approved two-week spring break; to bring in year-round schooling, which means instead of eight weeks in the summer, there would be vacation periods throughout the year; the final option is a balanced calendar with a three-week spring break and a three-week winter break and the entire month of August off.

So far, only Douglas Park Community School has a varied calendar with an extended school year into July.  It’s proving to be very popular and has helped improve children’s learning because of the continuum of education, said Superintendent Suzanne Hoffman.

The majority of parents who attended the open house were against changing the school calendar.

Some students said they like the idea of getting extra help and said having three breaks instead of one big summer break, helps them keep focused on studies.

At a year-round school in Maple Ridge, staff suggested that it resulted in better attendance from both students and teachers, with less burn out. Others in favour, said in the current calendar wind-down to the summer break begins early in June, and review and catch-up takes place for weeks in September, so there is loss of learning.

“It’s about what’s the best education students in Langley can get,” said Sam Muraca, who works on special projects with the school district. As a former Langley Secondary teacher, he believes year-round schooling will improve learning.

But at the Board of Education meeting held after the open house, Hoffman pointed out there is no research or evidence to show that year-round schooling improves learning.

“The themes of the research we have done shows that in order for year-round schooling to be successful there needs to be intersessions,” said Hoffman.

“There is no predetermined decision here. If there is no appetite for change, we won’t do this,” she said. “We at the district level believe there are benefits and that is why we are exploring these options.”

RC Garnett PAC president Lorraine Baldwin is adamantly opposed to year-round schooling and said the district should focus on fixing its overpopulated school issues first, and transition to the middle school philosophy it has adopted to before venturing into even more change for students.

The province has given the district until March to decide on whether or not to change the calendar. The board will vote on it at their March 12 meeting.

Should any changes take place, they wouldn’t happen until the 2014/2015 school year.

“There are a lot of logistics to work out, and if we can’t work those out, we won’t move forward,” said Hoffman.

The district encourages residents to fill out the survey on their website at sd35.bc.ca.  Full details of the three options can be found on the website.

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